A few years ago I wrote a novel using the diaries of Kazimierz as background research. Now I’m writing the book that he never got a chance to, using the diaries which I now have the rights to.
Kazimierz Sakowicz watched the holocaust unfold outside his door – and took notes. He died at the end of the war and his notes were hidden for fifty years. Nobody knows what his intentions were, but as a journalist and publisher it is likely he intended to write about what he saw.
His diaries were eventually rediscovered by Rachel Margolis who had lost her family to Ponary Wood. They were published in English by Yale University Press in 2005. They provide a unique account of the start of the holocaust, a personal witnessing that is unparalleled.
Sakowicz was a unique witness. He saw the first minutes of the first hour of the first day of the shooting holocaust that unfolded following the German invasion of Eastern Europe. He was a Polish Catholic who had no vested interest in what was happening, yet he went everywhere and, watched closely and interviewed participants. He left a unique record of the worst of times. He was brave, risking his life to record his observations. He is buried in the partisans section of the graveyard in Vilnius. He identified the killers and those who helped them. His work was hidden away by the LIthuania and Soviet authorities and remains contentious in the modern climate of holocaust denial.
I own the film rights to these diaries. I have been working on them for several years now. Originally I wrote a novel using them as background research. Now I intend to write the book that Sakowicz never did, using the diaries. I’m going to finish what he started.
I have been to Vilnius on a research trip. I have visited the ghetto and the woods. I have visited the Holocaust Museum that was created by Rachel Margolis who uncovered the diaries and talked to the Director, who worked for sixteen years with her. I made attempts to track down the original diaries and the archive in which they are kept. I have visited Ponary Wood and oriented myself in the village of Ponary.
I need to return to Vilnius to finish this research. From this I will first produce an illustrated book of my search for the lives of Kazimierz Sakowicz and Rachel Margolis.
In order to achieve this aim I will do the following:
- identify the location of Sakowicz’s house using research at the national archives
- fly a drone over the woods to film and map locations
- research Sakowicz’s life before the war in Poland, at law school and as a publisher
- attempt to find his relatives
- find archives relating to the discovery of the diaries.
I am also starting a commemoration day called July 5 1944. This is the date on which both Sakowicz and Rachel Margolis’s family died. This year I will be in Vilnius on this date to commemorate the events at Ponary wood and the bravery of these two people.